University Hospital Limerick (UHL) is moving to the second stage of its surge capacity plan to handle rising Covid-19 hospitalisations.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Colette Cowan, chief executive of the University of Limerick hospitals group, said the next two weeks are going to be very difficult for the hospital and that they are in an "emergency situation".
“The next two weeks are going to be very difficult, we are in an emergency situation," she said.
The hospitals chief said 579 staff, including over 200 nurses and 50 medical team doctors are unable to work for Covid-related symptoms or close contacts.
UHL has the highest number of Covid-positive patients in the country at 163 with 47 patients isolated in emergency care waiting for admission. The hospital only has one available bed in an intensive care unit (ICU). The hospital's high dependency unit (HDU) is also full.
Outpatient services and elective work has been cancelled as six beds have been made available from the HDU for ICU.
Ms Cowan said the surge plan is extensive but the staff redeployments will effect available care.
“Our plan is quite extensive and well developed by the clinicians and can flex to up to 64 beds, but of course there is a warning with that in the sense that we would have to divide the workforce very much and the level of care would drop if we had to open to that level,” she said.
The hospital boss confirmed some staff who have been identified as close contacts have been asked to return to work to help with staffing shortages.
She said this is done on a risk-assessed basis after 10 days. The derogation process has asked six staff to return work who have their temperatures checked twice a day.
“You have to be very careful about derogation because that can create a risk. So we risk assess them and check their temperatures twice a day, but its a small number," said Ms Cowan.
Covid-19 outbreaks in Nenagh hospital and St John's hospital prevent the transfer of patients at the moment, said Ms Cown, but Ennis hospital is available.
The orthopedic hospital in Croom, Co Limerick has also been converted to a medical hospital to help with Covid-19 patients she added.
Covid-19 hospitalisations have continued to increase according to the latest figures published by the Department of Health.
The latest figures show 1,846 patients have been hospitalised with coronavirus and 171 of them are receiving treatment in ICUs.
This is an increase on figures reported yesterday evening when 1,838 were hospitalised and 169 patients were in intensive care.
133 people were admitted to hospital in the past 24 hours and 105 people have been discharged.
12 patients have been admitted to intensive care while 10 people have been discharged.
Unfortunately, our #COVID19 hospital cases continue to rise, 1,846 this morning & 171 in ICU. People are extremely sick with this virus. Despite some hopeful trends on transmission levels, it's still hugely prevalent in your area. Please stick with us. @HSELive— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) January 15, 2021
Paul Reid, chief executive of the HSE said hospitalisations remain serious even with the recent positive trends in the spread of the virus.
On Twitter, Mr Reid said: “Unfortunately, our Covid-19 hospital cases continue to rise,
“1,846 this morning & 171 in ICU. People are extremely sick with this virus. Despite some hopeful trends on transmission levels, it's still hugely prevalent in your area. Please stick with us.”
Meanwhile, 13 hospitals nationwide have no ICU capacity left.
According to HSE statistics, this includes hospitals in Galway, Letterkenny, Portlaoise, Navan and Naas.
32 intensive care beds are available nationwide across both adult and pediatric units.
The HSE chief said hospitals are still coping and have not activated the available emergency surge capacity for ICU, of up to 350 beds, but the option remains a possibility if hospitalisations continue to climb.
“We have not gone into what we would call our ‘surge’ capacity on beds,
“But if the levels of projections of what we have currently in the hospital transpire into ICU beds, that will increase absolutely, probably close to that 350,” he said
Figures released by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation's (INMO) trolley watch has shown 139 admitted patients are waiting for beds this morning.
125 patients are in the emergency department and 14 people are in wards elsewhere in hospital.
University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has the most patients waiting at 36 followed by Cork University Hospital (CUH) at 23.